WNCC men advanced in Region IX hoops tourney
     2016-03-04      By Media Report    editor@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy photo WNCC’s Michael Connor, Jr. is one of the reasons the Cougars are alive in post season.  
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Chase Mason scored five points for the Western Nebraska Community College, but it was his free throw with no time on the clock that sent the Cougar men to a thrilling, come-from-behind win over Laramie County Community College 80-79 in the first-round of the Region IX tournament on Feb. 27.

Advancing to the elite eight, the Cougars played Casper College in the second round on March 3 in La Junta, Colo., not in time to post results in this week’s Gering Citizen. Other second round contests pitted North Platte Community College against Miles Community College, Gillette College against Northeastern Junior College, and Otero Junior College versus Central Wyoming College.

A win moves the Cougars into a semifinal match against the winner of the Otero and Central Wyoming contest on March 4. The championship is set for March 5 with the winner advancing to the men’s national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, March 14-19.

In getting to the elite eight, the Cougars (18-13) earned a last-second win over Laramie County Community College, 80-79.

The Cougars, who trailed by as much as 13 points in the second half, played hard and came away with the thrilling win. WNCC was the South No. 6 seed and LCCC the South No. 3 seed.

WNCC coach Russ Beck couldn’t be prouder of his players for the determination and never-give-up attitude they displayed on the court.

“I am proud of these boys and couch Louis Truscott,” he said.
“Everyone has bad luck at some point and we have had some of that this year. However, those people that endure bad luck will be ready to receive good luck when it comes their way.”

That good luck did come their way on some excellent free throw shooting in making 27 of 34 for the game. But Mason’s free throw with no time on the clock was the biggest.

WNCC took their first lead of the game since late in the first half with 57 seconds to play on a Mason floater. LCCC tied the game on a Gavin Peppers bucket with 3.5 seconds to play.

That set up the final shot. WNCC inbounded the ball and Mason attempted a 3-pointer which didn’t go in. But, on the attempt, Mason was fouled. With no time on the clock, Mason missed the first free of three free throws. Mason didn’t miss the second, giving the Cougars the win. “We told our guys to expend al your energy on defense,” Beck said. “They had a lead on us in the first half but we made some halftime defensive adjustments and it really paid off.”

LCCC put together a late first-half run to open up a tight game and lead 46-38 at halftime. The second half LCCC and WNCC kept exchanging buckets like two prize fighters exchanging punches. The Golden Eagles led by 11 points, 69-58, with a little over eight minutes to play. That was when WNCC shifted things into a second gear.

WNCC went on a 8-0 run to cut the lead to 69-66. LCCC went back up 75-69 only to watch WNCC come back to trail 75-73 on a Mason trey. WNCC finally tied the game at 77-77. The rest is history as the Cougars advance to next weekend’s Regional Tournament at the sight of the highest remaining South Division team.

“It is survive and advance,” Beck said. “We really feel like it’s us against the world. We have a lot of doubters but everyone in our inner circle believes in what we will do with this team.”

What WNCC did is get big performances from three players. Derrick Bowers paced the Cougars with 19 points, including two three pointers and going 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Tyrell Williams and Bo McVay each came up big as well, finishing with 15 points each. Williams went 9 of 11 from the charity stripe, while McVay connected on three 3-pointers.

Beck had a feeling that McVay was going to have a big game.

“I am very proud that we kept battling,” he said. “I had a feeling before the game that Bo McVay would have a big game for us and he did.”

LCCC, who finished the year at 19-12, was led by Peppers with 25 points, including five 3-pointers. The Golden Eagles also had a double-double from Josh McNair with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Izia Sherman-Newsome finished with 12.

In other first-round action last Saturday, North Platte topped Trinidad State 74-72, Miles upended Northwest 77-75, Central Wyoming upset Western Wyoming 96-89 in overtime, Casper beat Little Big Horn 130-89, Otero over McCook 72-53, and NJC topping Lamar 65-64.

WNCC (18-13) 38 42 – 80

LCCC (19-12) 46 33 – 79

WESTERN NEBRASKA

Daylon Harris 7, Mason Smith 5, Michael Sparks 9, Bo McVay 15, Derrick Bowers 19, Chase Mason 5, Phil Fayne 5, Tyrell Williams 15.

LARAMIE COUNTY

Alfonzo Anderson 4, Gavin Peppers 25, Josh McNair 13, Naseen Hadrab 8, Jerry Lockett 9, Harrison Meads 1, Izia Sherman-Newsome 12, Dominik Heinzl 5, Micheal Obindu 2.

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